Leadership styles clearly vary from person to person. There is one that is perceived as being positive by the leader and even her/his reports. I’m referring to what is often the often-idealized model … the “nice boss.” This individual is approachable, empathetic, and kind, fostering positive relationships with their team members. However, the perception of being a “nice boss” can sometimes carry a curse, potentially leading to challenges in achieving long-term success as a leader. For true success there is a need for a balance between kindness and successful leadership, highlighting the importance of assertiveness, accountability and strategic decision-making.
The Challenges Encountered When ‘Nice’ Drives Leadership
While they are dependable and have no issues taking responsibility, nice bosses struggle with the uglier aspects of leadership like maintaining leadership over a group of people, reprimanding or disqualifying members when the situation demands it and facing the hate that bosses often receive. They tend to be overly invested in being liked and they’re uncomfortable setting limits or giving consequences. They especially don’t like dealing with interpersonal conflicts between staff, assuming that at least one person will be unhappy with the outcome of resolving an issue. The problem is that this tends to create many problems in the workplace in various ways.
- An employee behaving badly …
by coming in late, leaving early, taking longer than expected breaks or lunches. The nice manager gives the worker multiple chances rather than calling them out on unacceptable behavior.
This is observed and often resented by those playing by the expected rules.
- An employee that the manager believes is sincere in doing their best job …
and as a result allows unsatisfactory work to slide.
Repercussions are felt throughout the entire organization as the result of the manager’s choice to be ‘nice’ to an individual employee.
- An employee who sees the “nice” boss as a mom or dad …
and use the same negotiating tactics they might use at home to get what they want.
Learning that one can negotiate and get away with what they want and that serves to anger those employees who would never think to perform their job responsibilities in that manner. And now the issue has become widespread.
Transitioning From Being the ‘Nice’ Leader to Being ‘Fair’ and Effective
There are three clear guidelines that, when followed, will enable a leader to earn and maintain the respect of those they lead and at the same time achieve the intended goals for the work. These are as follows:
- Being an assertive leader:
While being kind and approachable is beneficial, this is a person who sets clear expectations and boundaries for all of those they lead. This encompasses,
- Clear Communication, which in turn helps to avoid misunderstandings and ensures everyone is aligned with the organization’s vision.
- Confidence and decision-making after weighing various factors, analyzing data and making tough choices when necessary.
- Establishing Set Boundaries, which ensures that a leader can manage their time effectively, maintain focus on priorities and avoid being taken advantage of by members of the team.
Kindness and successful leadership can coexist when leaders prioritize accountability within their teams. This includes:
- Expectations around performance by defining key performance indicators, providing regular feedback and conducting performance evaluations. This encourages growth individually and for the overall team and assures alignment with the organizational goals.
- The consequences and providing feedback are crucial. Whereas the ‘nice’ boss may hesitate to address such issues fearing a diminished relationship, the effective boss addresses them in a respectful and constructive manner. This, in turn, fosters growth and improvement.
- Leading by example demonstrates accountability in one’s own actions. Thus, it inspires team members to take ownership of their own responsibilities. By modeling desired behaviors such as meeting deadlines, owning responsibility for errors and learning from failures, the leader sets the tone for all.
- Being a strategic decision-maker and making tough decisions for the benefit of the organization. This includes:
- Communicating a clear vision and strategy to guide their team. Involving team members in the decision-making process and explaining the rationale behind the strategic choices, the leader creates alignment and provides a sense of ownership among the team.
Conclusions and Solutions Supplementing ‘Nice’ with Effective Leading
The answer to the problem is for the manager to actually manage their employees. Giving so many chances to one lazy or irresponsible worker is a terrible idea for all the above reasons. Instead, the manager should follow the HR protocol of their workplace in guiding and disciplining any worker who is shirking their responsibilities.
The spoiled worker doesn’t like or respect their manager any more than the other workers do. They just take advantage of their manager’s niceness. The fair and effective manager has clear expectations and sets clear limits. All team members are treated fairly and similarly. This manager treats all their reports fairly and no-one gets away with unacceptable behavior. Being the ‘nice’ manager tends to be a losing proposition whereas the kind and effective manager makes for a winning one. This brings out the best in the workers inspiring them to do their best along with creating a high morale and highly productive workplace. Being a good leader entails doing what’s best for the team, sometimes regardless of how they might feel about it. The idea is not to be liked by everyone, but to shape the way the team functions and inspire action.